The Testing, The Grisha, and The End

girl with book rageTwo YA trilogies come to a conclusion today, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. With the exception of Kiera Cass’s The One, book threes have been more than a little disappointing lately.

Graduation Day is the final installment of Joelle Charbonneau’s dystopian series that began with The Testing. Judging from the reviews it’s getting, Ms. Charbonneau has managed to make readers happy while avoiding a too-perfect ending.

Ruin and Rising, the final book in Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy trilogy, also hits bookstore shelves today. The Grisha trilogy began with Shadow and Bone, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. I can recommend it in good conscience because the advance reviews for Ruin and Rising point to a satisfying series conclusion, not one that will make you want to shred all three books when you’re done. Good thing, too, since I gave in to the urge to pre-order a special edition copy from Barnes & Noble. I’d rather not shred it.

Have you been disappointed with any series finales lately?

©2014 Kim Vandel

Jupiter Winds

jupiter-winds-400Award-winning author C.J. Darlington makes her YA debut with Jupiter Winds, and she’s already off to a great start with an endorsement from sci-fi veteran Kathy Tyers (Firebird). Tyers calls Jupiter Winds “A fast-paced, character-driven space adventure that’s reminiscent of science fiction’s golden age.”

THE FACTS: C.J. is the award-winning author of the contemporary novels Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. Her new novel Jupiter Winds is a YA/space adventure/dystopian. She is a regular contributor to various websites. In 2013 C.J. co-founded Mountainview Books, LLC, an indie publisher of Christian fiction. She makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of animals. You can find her on her website as well as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

THE FICTION: In 2160, a teenager becomes the bait to capture her missing revolutionary parents she thinks are long dead.

Grey Alexander has one goal–to keep herself and her younger sister Orinda alive. Not an easy feat living unconnected in the North American Wildlife Preserve, where they survive by smuggling contraband into the Mazdaar government’s city zones. If the invisible electric border fence doesn’t kill them, a human-like patrol drone could.

When her worst fear comes true, Grey questions everything she thinks she knows about life, her missing parents, and God. Could another planet, whose sky swirls with orange vapors and where extinct-on-Earth creatures roam free, hold the key to reuniting her family?

THE BIG QUESTION: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

C.J.’S BIG ANSWER: I’d want to fly! That would be awesome, don’t you think? 🙂

Make sure to add Jupiter Winds to your summer reading list. It’s available through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

©2014 C.J. Darlington and Kim Vandel

The One

One_finalIt’s release day for The One by Kiera Cass, the final book in The Selection series. I preordered my special edition copy from Barnes & Noble, and it’s waiting for me along with a cup of tea and my comfy, oversized reading chair.

In honor of The One’s release, I thought I’d share the book trailer with you. You’ll get a good look at America’s gorgeous dress—a dress that looks a lot like (Dare I say it?) a wedding gown.

The big question is: Who gets your vote? Aspen or Maxon? (Warning: The state of our friendship may be affected by your answer.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to read. I need to know if my suspicions are correct.

©2014 KimVandel

Tweet Who gets your vote? Aspen or Maxon?


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000030_00047]I met Charity Tinnin in July of 2012 because of a blog post I wrote about dystopian fiction, and we couldn’t help but become friends. That’s what happens when you find someone who’s as obsessed with YA fiction as you are. (She also has the most awesome pair of pink high heels I’ve ever seen.) Today it’s her turn to talk about dystopian fiction and share the story behind her debut novel Haunted:

“As I write this, it’s Catching Fire Friday. (That is the official title for March 7, 2014, right?) I’ve been counting down the days to this, Divergent’s movie premiere March 21, and The One’s release on May 6. And yes, I have pre-ordered the Barnes & Noble Signed Extended Edition already.

Speaking of The Selection series, why did CW pass on the TV show? I do not understand. Cute boys, fancy dresses, reality TV, and a scary story world—what’s not to love? (Thanks for commiserating with me, Kim).

But I was a fan of dystopian lit before it became en vogue. I was the nerdy girl in high school devouring Brave New World, Alas, Babylon, and Uglies as fast as I could. And I’ll remain a dystopian fangirl long after the frenzy dies down. Why? Because I love the idea that one person can make a difference in a dark world. That no matter how bleak the world looks, there is still hope.

2014 AuthorPhoto (temp)Yet I never set out to write a dystopian series. Really. I was set on writing contemporary romances. Until, in 2010, Noah and Daniel State walked into my head arguing about the morals of liquidation, their version of execution. I didn’t pay any attention until Daniel threatened to kill off my other characters. (Okay, maybe his threat wasn’t that extreme, but he’s dangerous enough, alright?). So I set aside my WIP and gave the brothers NaNoWriMo to impress me. Six weeks later, as I typed the last sentence of Haunted, I knew I couldn’t put them away. Not until their story came to an end, and now four years later, I get to share the beginning with the world. I can’t wait. I hope you fall in love with my brothers like I did. Then we can all finish the journey together.”

THE FACTS: Charity Tinnin’s fascination with dystopian lit began in high school with Brave New World, so it’s no surprise that her debut novel, Haunted, would be a YA dystopian. In addition to authoring the State v. Seforé series, she’s a freelance editor and semi-professional fangirl. Join her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

THE FICTION: Punish the guilty or save the innocent? He can’t do both.

 As a liquidator, it’s Noah State’s job to carry out justice for the Elite—which is why they send him to Metro Area Four. There’s evidence of a resistance movement and chatter about a dangerous uprising. Noah’s orders? Stop it at any cost.

Failure means death. But Noah’s haunted by the blood spilled in his past and certain God has condemned him for it. Shedding more isn’t an option.

Then he meets Maddison James, a hospital apprentice with revolutionary leanings, and glimpses a future he thought was lost. A future within reach if they can survive his brother’s interference, a resistance more threatening than anyone imagined, and one unforgivable choice.

THE BIG QUESTION: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

CHARITY’S BIG ANSWER: As a diehard Captain America fan (April 4th, peeps!), I’m going to say that since genetically enhanced individuals normally need little to no sleep, I want that. As a girl with chronic fatigue, I’d love to recharge faster. Think about how much more YA I could read then!

Congrats to Charity! Be sure to pick up your copy of Haunted from Amazon or Barnes & Noble today!

©2014 Kim Vandel and Charity Tinnin

Movie Updates from Dystopia

Maze on abstract screenThe news has been disappointing lately for fans of YA dystopian novels, at least when it comes to TV adaptations. When it comes to the big screen, however, the news is much better. Four bestsellers hit movie theaters in 2014.

  • Divergent (Veronica Roth): March 21
  • The Giver (Lois Lowry): August 15
  • The Maze Runner (James Dashner): September 19
  • Mockingjay Part 1 (Suzanne Collins): November 21

There are sequels to come, and an adaptation of Joelle Charbonneau’s The Testing is also in the works for 2015, so dystopian fans should be in good shape for a while.

Have you heard of any other YA dystopian novels being turned into a movie?

©2014 Kim Vandel

TV Updates from Dystopia

woman  watching  tvBad news for fans who’ve been waiting for the TV adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series. Oliver recently announced that Fox passed on the show. (I know. What were they thinking?)

Bad news for fans of The Selection too. The CW couldn’t find room in their schedule for the TV version of Kiera Cass’s novel. (Again, what were they thinking? Make room.)

But all is not lost. Both authors should be able to get their rights back, so their dystopian novels could still make it to the screen someday.

Until then, Lauren Oliver’s non-dystopian novel Panic releases in March and Universal has already optioned the movie rights.

Two novellas—The Guard and an extended version of The Prince—will be available February 4 as part of The Selection Stories. The first three chapters of The One are included, so fans will have a little something to tide them over until the book releases in May. You can also pre-order a special edition copy of The One from Barnes and Noble. (Been there, done that.)

Which book would you rather have developed into a movie or a TV series—Delirium or The Selection?

©2014 Kim Vandel

Update June 2014: The pilot for Delirium (you know, the one Fox canceled) will be available on Hulu for thirty days starting June 20, 2014. Don’t have Hulu? Don’t worry. It’s also available on, and you can watch the trailer for the pilot right now:

Book Review: Aquifer

327836-xsmallSixteen-year-old Luca will one day take his father’s place as the Deliverer. He will make the annual descent into the depths of the earth, following the secret route that only the Deliverer knows. The burden will fall on Luca to negotiate with the “Rats” who guard the aquifer and ensure that water keeps flowing to the surface. He will be the difference between life and death for “Toppers” living in a world where rain is something read about in history books. For now, Luca’s responsibility is to commit the route to memory.

When Luca’s father, Massa, fails to return from his annual duty, Luca is the only one left who knows the route, but that knowledge puts him in danger. The Council of Nine has grown tired of negotiating with the Rats, and they resent their dependence on the Deliverer. They want control of the aquifer. Luca’s only choice is to run, to follow the route he’s memorized and find Massa.

In Aquifer, author Jonathan Friesen takes us on a journey of discovery. Luca struggles with the burden suddenly thrust on him, and we feel his longing to go back to the state of innocence he enjoyed before learning the truth about the aquifer and the Council of Nine. He starts off searching for Massa, expecting his father to fix everything, but being forced into a position of leadership is exactly what Luca needs. He slowly realizes just how capable he is.

There were a few story elements in Aquifer that didn’t make sense (at least not to me), but there were also some moments of great writing, and Friesen scores a few extra points for the Australian setting. Aquifer makes the perfect vacation read. It’ll hold your interest and keep you entertained, but you won’t get so sucked into it that you can’t put it down long enough to take a dip in the pool.

©2013 Kim Vandel

Book Review: The Testing

Abstract metal lightning background.I still remember the stress of taking the SAT, of getting up early on Saturday morning and spending the day at a cold, unforgiving desk surrounded by other stressed out teenagers. It felt like the rest of our lives depended on how we answered those questions. Sound familiar? Well, imagine that your life really did depend on how you answered.

Sixteen-year-old Cia Vale has dreamed of being one of the select few chosen for The Testing. Only the best students are given the chance to participate and prove they’re worthy of attending the University. Graduates of the University are the future leaders of the United Commonwealth. They’re the hope for an Earth ravaged by the Seven Stages War.

Cia’s dream comes true when she’s chosen for The Testing and she receives her identification bracelet. Surely the star and lightning symbols engraved on the metal represent the bright future ahead of her. But her bracelet soon feels like a shackle when Cia realizes The Testing is more than questions about history or science. It’s survival of the fittest.

Giving the wrong answer can have deadly consequences, and it’s not just exam questions Cia has to worry about. She has to be careful about which of the Testing candidates she trusts. Only twenty candidates will be accepted to the University, and the United Commonwealth only wants the strongest.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau is a quick-paced, engaging read. It feels enough like The Hunger Games that it will appeal to THG fans, but The Testing is definitely its own story. (Some reviewers think it’s a rip-off of The Hunger Games, but I disagree.)

If you wanted a Hunger Games comparison, I’d say that Cia won’t be forever etched in your memory the way Katniss is, but Cia is a warmer, more relatable character. Katniss is pragmatic while Cia views the world with more optimism, believing change is possible, and she relies on ingenuity and problem-solving rather than survival skills. She’s a good balance between compassionate and cautious. Cia wants to think the best of others but she’s not so gullible that she doesn’t question their behavior.

A short story prequel titled The Testing Guide is available, and the second book in The Testing Trilogy—Independent Study—is scheduled for release in January 2014.

©2013 Kim Vandel

Book Review: Ship Breaker

Ship Wreck on a BeachNailer is little more than a slave. He spends his days crawling through the rusty carcasses of ancient oil tankers, hoping he can salvage enough copper wire to meet quota. Being small for his age has allowed him to work “light crew” longer than most kids, but the ducts have begun to groan beneath his weight and press against his shoulders. He won’t be able to work light crew much longer, and he doesn’t have the strength to handle scrap iron with heavy crew, which means he’ll soon be out of work. Without a job, Nailer faces a life of begging, theft, or worse in order to survive.

Luck seems to be on his side when a hurricane leaves a broken luxury ship along the shore. If he’s quick enough, he can salvage some of the ship’s valuables before anyone else discovers the wreckage, but Nailer finds more than he expected on the ship. There’s a survivor. Nailer can leave her to die and take what he wants, or he can try to save her.

In the award-winning Ship Breaker, author Paolo Bacigalupi creates a believable future of drowned cities and a world surviving on the decay of the past. With the first paragraph, we’re drawn in to the cramped, suffocating walls of a service duct where we meet Nailer, a complex character caught between the need for self-preservation and the fear of losing what’s good about himself. We feel his struggle as he’s forced to choose again and again between doing the smart thing and doing what his heart says is right. Loyalty plays against betrayal throughout the book, adding to the tension. Ship Breaker offers the perfect balance of character, plot, and setting, and it has the great writing to go with them.

A second novel, The Drowned Cities, is set in the same story world as Ship Breaker but features a pair of protagonists named Mahlia and Mouse.

©2013 Kim Vandel

Book to Screen Adaptations

I always feel a thrill of anticipation when I hear that a book I’ve enjoyed is coming to the movie or TV screen, but apprehension quickly follows. It’s a tricky thing to capture the essence of a book for film, and I don’t envy the screenwriters who are given the task. Sometimes the things that make a book such a great book get lost in translation.

Some adaptations are downright tragic. (Don’t even get me started on Eragon.) Some I actually end up liking more than the book. (Two thumbs up for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.)

Image courtesy digitalart:

Big screen adaptations this year include Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Catching Fire, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and Ender’s Game. I think a movie is the way to go with those adaptations. The books have an epic feel that will be best communicated by a big screen.

Some books are better suited for the small screen. TV is the perfect place for Kiera Cass’s The Selection considering its reality TV storyline. I’ve also heard a rumor that Lauren Oliver’s Delirium has been optioned for TV, and I think it’s the right choice in that case. Delirium has a lot of subtlety that will benefit from a slower, weekly reveal.

What’s your favorite book to screen adaptation? What adaptations are you looking forward to?

©2013 Kim Vandel